Although stories from rural India don’t get a lot of spotlight in Bollywood, it’s the rare ones that steal the show! Here are some of the best movies that tell stories about rural India that you must watch.
Lagan (set in Kannura, Gujarat, 2001)
output from- Ashutosh Gowariker
written by- Ashutosh Gowariker, Sanjay Dhama and Kumar Dev
championship- Aamir Khan, Gracie Singh, Rachel Shelley, Paul Blackthorne and Suhasini Mulay
Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India follows the lives of the people of a village in central India burdened by high taxes compounded by the existence of a project. Lagaan was a massive critical and commercial success not only in India but in the rest of the world.
The film had a strong point of view that resonated with many colonial nations. The wasteland of Kannura village was the perfect setting for the film. Not only was Gowariker able to recreate an entire Victorian-era village, but he also used it as the backdrop for one of Bollywood’s most important mainstream films that captured Indian resilience and the ruthlessness of our colonizers.
Sholay (set in Ramgarh, Karnataka, 1975)
output from- Ramesh Sippy
written by- Javed Akhtar and Salim Khan
championship- Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra, Sanjeev Kumar, Amjad Khan, and Hema Malini
Sholay tells the story of Veeru and Jai, two criminals, who are hired by a retired police officer (played by Sanjeev Kumar) to catch the ruthless dacoit, Gabbar Singh. Sholay is heavily inspired by Westerns’ Spaghetti Westerns and Samurai cinema. The brilliant writing of Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar gave birth to a new genre of film, the Curry Western, while at the same time becoming one of the greatest films of all time.
The fictional village of Ramgarh, where all the action takes place in Sholay, was based on an actual village in Karnataka called Ramnagar. Today, 47 years after the film’s massive success, Ramnagar, 50 kilometers from Bangalore, has become a major tourist destination. Its picturesque landscapes are an ideal weekend getaway for residents of India’s bustling IT city.
Lootera (a collection in Purulia, West Bengal, 2013)
output from- Vikramaditya Motwani
written by- Bhavani Iyer
championship- Ranveer Singh, Sonakshi Sinha, Adil Hussain, and Vikrant Massi
Lootera is a romantic drama film based in part on the short story “The Last Leaf” by American writer O. Henry. The film is set in the 1950s against the backdrop of the Zamindari Abolition Act instituted by the newly independent India. Lootera follows the story of a con man posing as an archaeologist who falls in love with the daughter of the zamindar he is deceiving.
Lootera was a critically received commercial failure. Critic Taran Adarsh of Bollywood Hungama said, “On the whole, Lootera is a story that is serious at its core and deeply disturbing to stay in your heart. An absolute must for those who love romantic films or romance at heart. This is a cinematic gem!” Although it was set in Dalhousie, the first half was shot in the lush Purulia district, West Bengal.
Pahili (set in Abaneri, Rajasthan, 2005)
output from- Amol Palekar
written by- Sandhya Gokhale
championship- SRK, Rani Mukherjee, Amitabh Bachchan, Juhi Chawla, and Anupam Kher
Paheli is a remake of the 1973 National Award winning film Duvidha by Mani Kaul. The film tells the story of a woman who is visited by Jinn, disguised as her husband, when her husband is away on a business trip. The jinn who loves a woman takes the place of her husband. Paheli received mixed reviews from critics, who praised the film for its intricate dress-up, style, and sound design.
Paheli is a captivating movie that brings a delicious old folk tale to life. Acting and storytelling aided by the charming cinematography of director Ravi K. A major part of the film was shot in the desert village of Abhaneri, Rajasthan. Abhaneri is located on the Agra-Jaipur Highway, 100 km from Jaipur. It is famous for its Rajasthani architecture, Chand Baori stepwell, and Harshat Mata temple.
Paan Singh Tomar (Set in Chambal, Gwalior, 2012)
output from- Tigmanshu Dhulia
written by- Tegmancho Dolia and Sanjay Tomar
championship- Mahi Gill, Irrfan Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, and Vipin Sharma
Paan Singh Tomar is a biographical film based on the book Life of Paan Singh Tomar. It tells the story of Ban Singh Tomar, a soldier in the Indian Army who represented India at the 1958 Asian Games and later becomes a rebel against the state after a land dispute. The titular role of Paan Singh Tomar was played by late actor Irfan Khan whose performance in the film was unanimously praised.
The film came out to not only be a critical but also a commercial success at both the domestic and international box office. The film Paan Singh Tomar was highly praised for aptly representing the turbulent rural life in Madhya Pradesh’s Chambal district after independence. The subtle themes of village life are juxtaposed with gang wars and violent family feuds in the film.
Guru (set in Pollachi, Tamil Nadu, 2007)
output from- Mani Ratnam
written by- Mani Ratnam and Vijay Krishna Acharya
championship- Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai, Mithun Chakraborty, R Madhavan, Vidya Balan
Contrary to popular belief, this film is not a biographical film on industrial tycoon Dhirubhai Ambani, instead it is entirely a work of fiction. It tells the story of Gurukant Desai, a young man from Idar village in Gujrat who dreams of making it big, his struggles, and his eventual rise to power. Guru was well received both at the box office. Although the film was set in Gujrat, the village scenes were shot in a village near Pollachi, Tamil Nadu, and in another village in Karnataka.
Swades (set in Wye, Maharashtra, 2004)
output from- Ashutosh Gowariker
written by- Ashutosh Gowariker, Ayan Mukherjee, Sameer Sharma, and Lalit Marathi
championship- Gayatri Joshi, Shahrukh Khan
Considered Shah Rukh Khan’s best performance to date, Swades: We the People tells the story of Mohan Bhargava, a project manager in NASA’s Global Precision Measurement program, who sets up a small hydroelectric project to generate electricity in a remote village of Charanpur, Uttar Pradesh.
Charanpur is a fictional village and the movie was actually shot in Wai village in Maharashtra which is on the way to Mahabaleshwar. The film was able to resonate with millions of Indians because of its themes of untouchability, lack of infrastructure, homecoming and the earthly charm of an Indian village.
First published on: Dec 26, 2022 12:20 IST
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